JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Evolving treatments in the management of laryngotracheal hemangiomas: will propranolol supplant steroids and surgery?

There has been a dramatic evolution in the treatment of laryngotracheal hemangiomas during the past decade and recent accounts and case reports of propranolol treatment have been encouraging. The purpose of the study is to determine the clinical course and outcomes of treating laryngotracheal hemangiomas at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in the last 8 years with the various modalities. We review with contemporary surgical techniques, including propranolol, and determine the results, limitations and complications. The study was a retrospective review of all patients referred to the Otolaryngology service at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia with symptomatic laryngotracheal hemangiomas between January 2002 and December 2010. The study consisted of 30 infants, ranging in age from 1 to 18 months at time of diagnosis. Surgical interventions included open surgical excision, laser surgery, microdebrider excision and/or propranolol therapy. The main outcome measures include improvement in symptoms, decannulation, number of required treatments and airway size. All but two patients underwent an initial trial of steroids. Thirteen patients underwent open surgical excision, 9 requiring cartilage grafts and 12 were done in a single stage. Twelve surgical patients remained asymptomatic. One patient with diffuse mediastinal disease experiencing postoperative airway symptoms despite a normal appearing airway improved on propranolol. Two patients underwent at least 2 laser ablations, 4 responded to systemic steroids alone, and 1 had microdebrider resection. In the last 14 months, 12 patients have had propranolol therapy at a dose of 2mg/kg divided every 8h. Eight patients improved clinically within 1 week of initiating treatment. Four patients failed to respond to propranolol therapy; 1 patient subsequently underwent open excision and the other continued with a tracheostomy for 18 months and finally was decannulated. A third patient had a partial response, but remains relatively asymptomatic. A fourth patient has had no response at all. There were no major complications from propranolol; minor complications included diarrhea and decreased appetite. This study gives an overview of the evolution of hemangioma treatment at our institution over the last 8 years. Surgical excision remains an effective treatment for subglottic hemangiomas. Carefully administered, propranolol may demonstrate efficacy as a first-line agent in most cases avoiding surgery, tracheostomy, prolonged steroids, or as treatment of diffuse and unresectable disease. However, some lesions may be resistant to propranolol and require surgery or long-term steroids.

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